2018 hasn’t started out the way I’d hoped.
We’re almost a quarter into the year, and I still feel like I’m in 2017, waiting for the year to end and for a new chapter to begin. Perhaps I’m just waiting for a new chapter in my life to begin – a new prospect, or a new career, a new relationship, a new exciting project, moving to a new place.. something… Anything.
Instead what I’ve got were 2 commissions for other people’s projects, a stomach infection during my so-called vacation in one of the worst cities I’ve visited, and to top it all off – I had a huge art sale that was accompanied by many issues with the client, and 4 months later, I found out it was a new online art scam. SIGH…
To be honest, I didn’t want to share any of this. I didn’t want to share it because somehow I’ve been conditioned to believe that the down moments of life are meant to be kept behind closed doors, and we’re encouraged only to share the happy stuff, the achievements, the successes… Perhaps all this real world stuff is just too much for a sensitive, over-coddled privileged kid like me, but it really just sucks.
It sucks to be five years into my dream career and feeling like I’m still going nowhere.
It sucks to believe that someone really wanted to buy my art, but they really just wanted to get money from stolen credit cards.
It sucks to have to put off my dreams of traveling because I lack the resources for it.
It sucks to look on Instagram and know that I’m not one of those people with exotic sceneries in their selfies, or that my 2 new followers are most likely just bots.
I constantly worry about how much money is in my bank account while I’m trying to paint. I constantly worry about how do I market my art, how do I sell my works? Should I do more commercial illustrations or focus more on my own projects? Should I get a day job? Should I just pack a suitcase, get a one-way ticket, and try my luck? Should I try Facebook Ads? Should I paint other animals and people? Should I work more in acrylics on canvas or focus on the watercolor works? Should I go into merchandising, or licensing my art?
Decisions, decisions, decisions – and when people advice me “Do this… Do that…”, I can’t help but feel like parts of it don’t apply to me, and that most advice comes from another person’s experiences and their frameworks anyway.
The more advice I seek, the more I feel like I don’t want it… and eventually I ask myself, “So what is it that you want?”
And after attempting to figure this out many times, I’ve realised: I actually don’t have a satisfying answer.
My previous satisfying answer when someone asks me what I want: “I want to make art and travel, and live in different places around the world. I want to be a creative coach, a writer, a speaker. I want to inspire others to live life on their own terms, the life they really want.”
Having done much personal development work these past 5 years (which is what got me started on pursuing my artist dream in the first place), I’ve uncovered that my wanting to make art is because I could never truly express myself to my loved ones. I want to travel because I feel trapped and I yearn to escape and be free. I want to be a influential and inspirational because I feel I’m not important or worthy of praise. And I want to see others live out their dreams because I want to believe that it’s possible for me to actually live mine.
What I say I really want is nothing more than my way of compensating for what I really don’t want.
And as much as I yearn to be free and live life on my own terms, I can’t help but look to everyone else as a gauge to see if I’m living “correctly” or not.
Am I behaving appropriately in whatever setting I’m in? Am I making the right career moves? Am I saying the “right” things so I don’t get misunderstood or seem uninteresting? Am I working enough hours a day? Should I do more personal development programs like some of my friends? Should I do commercial work or get a day job?
And so the cycle starts again – I question what do I want, and realise I don’t have an answer, and so I look to others for some guidance, and I don’t feel like it applies to me, then I question what do I want… and then this loop continues and goes on and on.
Perhaps I’ve gone through this cycle one too many times (probably since I was a child), and now that I’m slightly more aware of it, it’s kinda starting to get old. Perhaps I’ve started to see that nobody really knows the answers (well, a few people do have the answers, but they are hard to get to, and probably even harder to understand). Perhaps I’m just not cut out for this whole artist life thing in the first place.
Truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know what life is supposed to be about. I don’t know if there’s any real purpose to it at all. I don’t know what success really means, or if it even matters. I don’t know if I would ever transcend this loop I’m in.
But after nearly 35 years of existence of not knowing much, I do know this – I’m a creator. I’ve created this life into what it is today. I’ve created myself into who I am today. Whether I did it consciously or not, where I am now is a consequence of all the paths I did and did not take, all the choices I made along the way. I created this messy, glorious life, and I’m the only one who can continue to make a glorious mess of it. Or to turn it into a work of art.
I’m the 8-year-old who chose to listen to Mom’s advice and forgot about my artist dream, which resulted in honing my other creative abilities.
I’m the 14-year-old who chose to join that church youth group which opened my eyes to a world vastly different from the one my parents kept me protected in.
I’m the 18-year-old who chose one night to stay out past my curfew so I could win the house keys, and freedom to come and go as I pleased.
I’m the young adult who chose to fall in love with the wrong guys over and over and over again, and now I have a series of interesting stupid funny crazy love stories to paint about.
I’m the 25-year-old who chose to go halfway across the world to pursue a second bachelor’s in Songwriting, only to discover: 1) art was my long forgotten dream, and 2) I had been running away from myself for the longest time.
I’m the 29-year-old who chose to take that personal development course that resulted in the creation and preparation of my first solo art exhibition within 2 months.
And right now, I’m the one who has chosen to doubt and to question the validity of what I really want.
Not knowing, doubting and questioning is one thing – but have I also chosen to remain in my created state of continuously looping confusion? (The answer is yes. LOL. :D)
So this March, I’ve created a little space for myself to breathe. To just breathe and be. Work can wait. Art can wait. My life as a creator-human is far too precious to be taken up by things that aren’t really “me”. It’s like a working break, of course. Cutting back on the pressure I put on myself to create what I think the world wants to see, on how to market it, how to sell it… Focusing more on building my mental and physical disciplines as a person – daily meditation, stretching and exercise, and creating art that is just for me.
In spite of my perpetual confusions, I somehow feel like the answers we need are already within ourselves and in signs around us, but perhaps we’re too busy or distracted to notice them. Or worried about surviving. Or concerned about living the “right” way.
So my wish for you this 2018 is to reconnect to yourself. To remember who you really are. To love who you really are.
And only then will you create the life you truly desire.